From Dr. Jane's Notebook

Attending to the family infrastructure

The I Ching, an ancient oracle otherwise known as the Chinese Book of Changes, has a passage which encourages the reader to ‘work on what has been spoiled’.  This concept is similar to lessons we have learned from hurricane Katrina and other catastrophes--- we need to repair and maintain our country’s infrastructure. When things are new, we expect them to stay that way. But eventually, all things are subject to decay and will too soon be in need of repair. As we consider the summer ahead of us, this may be a good time to assess the well-being of our personal infrastructure.

·        Family life is in constant need of repair. This summer may be different for many families as we face economic changes. For those faced with unemployment or underemployment, expensive summer camps and vacations may not be an option in the summer of 2009. But having adults around with time on their hands is a good thing for children. Many of us have grown dependent on electronic entertainment and have forgotten how to play. This summer may provide a great opportunity for home-based activities, such as teaching children how to cook, play board games, build tree houses and other lost arts

·        The Environment around us needs our care.  Whether your view includes your own back yard or the land around a local creek, everyone has an opportunity to improve the well-being of our shared environment. Many powerful lessons can be learned from volunteer efforts to help clean up the world. While it is easy to ignore litter and trash by expecting that local taxes should pay for clean-up, each of us can develop a greater sense of responsibility and pride in our environment by learning first-hand how to care for our natural resources. All of us, young and old, have an obligation to learn about conservation in order to maintain and care for our planet from this point forward.

·        Extended families need better connections. In a time when the internet allows us to connect anywhere in the world for free, families are friends are afforded opportunities for communication which have no boundaries. For several decades, families have been spreading apart across the globe and many have lost touch. As a result, generations of children may not know their own grandparents and cousins. But computers can now bridge many of the gaps that have led to family isolation. Internet telephone computer programs such as Skype don’t require that Grandma have a computer; computers allow us to call land lines and cell phones, as well as other computers for little or no money. As a result, it is now possible to communicate from practically anywhere to practically anywhere or anyone. Even international calls have become crystal clear and highly affordable, allowing us to visit with those who are very far away.

·        Home is where we learn important life skills.  During this period of our country’s recession, we have the opportunity to learn and teach our children some important life skills.   For example, all children should learn how to cook. While restaurants and fast food have become part of daily life, the ability to prepare a home-cooked meal is a basic survival skill. While bakeries offer luscious breads and sweets, there’s a lot to be said for learning how to bake your own bread and cookies from scratch. Similarly, growing vegetables in your own garden is one of those miracles that you can’t learn about even in the best grocery store. And while it’s a lot of work to give your walls a fresh coat of paint, it is very satisfying to enjoy that freshly painted room after cleaning up the mess and patting ourselves on the back for a job well done.

           In short, schools teach our children many important intellectual and social skills but we cannot expect schools to cover everything. In order for children to be well-rounded, our homes must once again become places where our children learn home economics, how to fix things that are broken, and other valuable life survival skills. As parents, we are the everyday teachers of our children. Even as adults, we must continue to learn and constantly upgrade our own life skills. When we learn alongside our children, we serve as role models for lifelong learning and help our children develop the confidence to learn new skills, which enriches and refurbishes the bonds of parents and children within our families.  This is how we can improve our family’s infrastructure. This is how all of us can ‘work on what has been spoiled’ and in doing so, this is how we can help to prepare and enrich the generations to come.  Sometimes lost arts are not really lost; they are simply waiting to be rediscovered.

©Copyright, 2009, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.            

Return to Family Relations

Return to Table of Contents